The Good Witch of the West is an 8-volume fantasy fairy tale.
Firiel is a sweet, kind, poor girl growing up in a small village away from any excitement or turmoil. Her mother is dead, but she lives with kind foster parents and her father is nearby, although he will not see or speak to her. His apprentice, Rune, has no such compunction and the two of them spend as much time as possible together. Life for Firiel is good – not perfect, but good.
Until, that is, men in black attack the village and kill most of the inhabitants. Rune manages to save Firiel, but is himself captured. Firel is plunged into an incredibly complicated plot that involves the Witch Queen of her country who is coming to the end of her power, the cutthroat competition for her position, the secret of her father’s research and the conspiracies that seek to destroy the country.
Firiel learns that she is in fact, not a poor peasant girl, but a member of the Royal Family and a contender for the throne. She is befriended by Adele. a member of the nobility, and is enrolled in a private school for noblewomen, in order to prepare for the vicious maneuverings of court. This is all told in Volume 1 and Volume 2.
As Volume 3 opens, Firiel immediately falls foul of the Student Council, followed by one of the nuns who teach at the school, but she also makes allies and some old friends enter the school to help her, including Rune (disguised as Runette, – “yeah, this shit never gets old,” says the wife.)
To increase the Student Council’s control of Firiel, they assign a spy to her, Rosalitte. During the school festival, Rosalitte is killed in an attempt on Firiel’s life. Firiel learns that she can challenge the Student Council President to a duel at the next festival and in introduced to tall, otokoyaku-like Igraine who will instruct her in use of a sword.
It turns out that Igraine and Rosalitte were inseparable until Ravenna, president of the Student Council, split them up. Now Igraine has two grudges against Ravenna. Firiel burns with desire to defeat Ravenna and makes tremendous progress in her lessons with Igraine. When Igraine confesses that she is interested in Firiel, our heroine has already had some intimate conversations with Rune, but she accepts Igraine’s kiss.
The story is a little messy, with elements from western fairy tales integrated sloppily with fantasy tropes, but as I read Volume 3, I had to say it was actually a pretty fun read. This title was brought to my attention ages ago on the Yuricon Mailing List (thanks Craig!) but I had never actually read it before now. When JManga picked it up, I thought this a perfect opportunity to finally get around to this series. Even with the obvious pandering of Igraine’s character design, the questionable costuming sense and Rune’s inexplicable appearance, I kinda like it. It’s exactly the kind of entertainment I want to throw my money at on a digital platform.
As a bonus, the JManga Android app is getting better all the time. They’ve lost that annoying poke to turn pages, replacing it with the more conventional swipe. I’d still like to see a pinch-zoom feature, but the app is loads faster than it was at first. It has much improved – I’m so very thankful to JManga for not launching it and walking away. Their continued tweaks are much appreciated.
Art – About as sloppy as the plot, but about as enjoyable – 7
Story – 7
Characters- Almost despite myself I find myself typing – 9
Yuri – 4
Overall – 7
Fairytale fantasy with princesses and princes galore for just about any reader. Worth a read!